A William & Mary Student’s Essay

Halfway across the globe and with no more knowledge of my location than a fishing boat in the Dead Sea, there I found myself, a Panamanian boy who had never stepped past the familiar boundaries of the Americas, in the extravagant land formerly known as Siam. Little did I know that within a few months I would dismiss any fears or misconceptions I had of my new country of residence, and embrace a culture formerly unknown to me.

My parents divorced when I was young, and I had to live in an apartment in a crowded metropolitan area. The expense of living in a suburban home was too much for my mother who had to care for two children by herself. As it was not the right setting for outdoor activities, my mother taught me to use my time for studying instead. Although this helped me excel at school, it made me somewhat of an outcast amongst my peers, who preferred to play sports rather than expand their minds.

After my mom re-married, we moved to Bangkok, Thailand. My initial reactions were mostly negative, as I was afraid of living in a place that I had not even heard of, and feared that I would be an outcast there too, as I did not even know the local language.

I was wrong; living in Thailand proved to be the most wonderful experience of my life. There, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with a culture more accepting and richer than my own. What I loved about it the most were the people. Never in my life could I have predicted that I would feel so accepted in a place so unknown to me. The love and smiles that Thai people radiated combined with their casual attire and friendly demeanor could have made even the grumpiest of grouches smile like a child. Living amongst these people opened my mind, and allowed me to evaluate my own culture from an objective point of view; making me see how constrained and unhappy my life truly was back at the place I called “home.”

Asia was not the only continent I visited during those three wonderful years, as my school, the International School of Bangkok, granted me the opportunity to visit Prague as part of their Week Without Walls program. There, I saw how life was in a place where the weather was the opposite of the warm tropical climate I was accustomed to, and how its people would still remain warm and friendly regardless. In Prague, I visited different chapels and medieval structures that astonished and overpowered me. Although I was raised Catholic, I had never truly felt the presence of an omnipotent being until I was surrounded by those magnificent and beautiful walls.

And now I find myself in a new home. I have already become fond of this great nation, which embodies the unison of all the cultures to which I have been exposed to, all under one flag, and I expect to see the diversity, which this nation was founded upon, continue to flourish throughout my stay, however long that may be.

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